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Kopu Bridge, Again!

You have to give credit where credit is due, and Gary Blake's persistence needs to be recognised, even if he appears to only hear what he wants to hear.

You may recall the wording of the 22 October resolution:

 "Supports the retention of the Kopu Bridge in principle conditional upon the following measures being achieved to remove the risk of future cost to the ratepayer;

a) a long term transferable resource consent for future demolition being successfully achieved by NZTA;

b) certainty of operation and maintenance financial self sustainability by an external management entity and;

c) certainty of the adequacy of future demolition funding received from NZTA.

If the bridge is demolished Council will oppose any partial demolition proposals that retain only part sections of the bridge structure.

That if the bridge is demolished the swing arm be located on land at a site agreed on by TCDC and HDC, and at NZTA cost."

That would seem fairly clear to the average reader I would thought; yet here is how Gary interpreted it in a submission to Council today:

"The Historic Kopu Bridge Society was formed 2 years ago to retain the the heritage bridge. Now that this has been achieved with the involvement of the TCDC we move to the next stage."

Clearly, I must have missed something.

In any case, NZTA Regional Director Harry Wilson who generally does not muck around attended today's meeting clearly with the intention of laying it down without any room for mis-interpretation just what NZTA would and would not do. Unfortunately his presentation was anything but, and he along with everyone else before him inadvertently got stuck on Gary's tar-baby.

Here is what he said in his accompanying letter:

"In the light of the Council's resolution (see above) the TA will only proceed with seeking demolition consents if we plan to demolish the bridge. We are not prepared to obtain consents with the intention of handing them on to Council as the public consultation required to obtain the consents would be very complicated in intent and message. At best it would be very confusing for the public about which our plan actually is for the bridge, at worst the process may appear disingenuous."

Disingenuous indeed - Harry in reply to a specific query from Peter French stated categorically, not once, but three times, and contrary to the above that the consenting process could proceed immediately, but that not one bolt would be removed until Council had been able to first ascertain whether or not the Society had been able to meet the conditions set out in the resolution.

That was just what Gary, and those sitting around the table wanted to hear - Harry is now committed to proceeding with a "disingenuous" consent application. The Society will have a year or two now to finally tie down a sponsor that will be prepared to accept the liability from which the Council is so keen (correctly so!) to absolve itself. That will indeed to be a high hurdle for the Society, and puts into context Gary's concept of the 'retention' having been achieved through Council intervention.

Harry on the other hand has contradicted himself in front of the entire Council, and committed the NZTA to entering the consent phase with no certainty that the actual demolition will proceed. Oh dear, what a shambles, but he has no one to blame but himself.

This entire process has been one that could have been avoided at the outset had Council shown intent and resolve instead of 'pussy-footing' around with Gary and his esteemed team of heritage advocates. I believe that Leach must accept considerable responsibility for this state of affairs, though I totally understand his wish to give the Society every opportunity to prove their point, and bring a real deal to the table.

He could have killed it dead two meetings ago, and I'll bet he now regrets he didn't. The Society will again no doubt spend more time agitating to pressure Council to relax its current position rather than find an acceptable sponsor - a highly unlikely event in any case.

At least, NZTA can now get on with the job of pursuing the consent, and hopefully that will be the end of it, but don't hold your breath.    





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